1 Definition 2 Wesleyan-Arminian theology 3 In Roman Catholic theology 4 Biblical texts 5 In other sources 6 Objections to the doctrine
6.1 Comparison among Protestants
7 References 8 Bibliography
Free Will Baptist
Part of a series on
Five Articles of Remonstrance
Jacobus Arminius Simon Episcopius Hugo Grotius The Remonstrants Synod of Dort participants John Wesley
Total depravity Conditional election Unlimited atonement Prevenient grace Conditional preservation
v t e
Church of the Nazarene
We believe that the human race's creation in Godlikeness included ability to choose between right and wrong, and that thus human beings were made morally responsible; that through the fall of Adam they became depraved so that they cannot now turn and prepare themselves by their own natural strength and works to faith and calling upon God. But we also believe that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed upon all people, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.
Predecessor to the Nazarene Articles of Faith are the Articles of
Part of a series on
History (in the United States)
Anglicanism Arminianism First Great Awakening Nonconformism Pietism Wesleyanism
Articles of Religion Assurance of salvation
Conditional preservation of the saints
Four sources of theological authority
Covenant theology Substitutionary atonement Imparted righteousness New birth Prevenient grace Plain dress Real presence Sanctification Sunday Sabbatarianism Temperance Christian perfection Works of Piety Works of Mercy
John Wesley Charles Wesley
Richard Allen Francis Asbury Thomas Coke William Law William Williams Pantycelyn Howell Harris Albert Outler James Varick Countess of Huntingdon
Methodist Church of Great Britain Free Methodist Church United Methodist Church World Methodist Council Other Methodist denominations
Connexionalism Methodist Circuit
Holiness movement Conservative holiness movement Pentecostalism Evangelicalism
Circuit rider Saints in Methodism Christian views on alcohol Methodist local preacher Homosexuality and Methodism Ordination of women in Methodism
v t e
Concerning grace and free will, this is what I teach according to the
Scriptures and orthodox consent:
In John Wesley's sermon "On Working Out Our Own Salvation" (sermon
#85), Wesley stated that prevenient grace elicits, "...the first wish
to please God, the first dawn of light concerning His will, and the
first slight transient conviction of having sinned against Him."
Wesley insisted on prevenient grace as a solution to two great
problems in Christianity: the belief of original sin and the
Protestant doctrine of salvation by grace alone. Wesley thought that
prevenient grace enabled the doctrines of original sin and salvation
by grace to co-exist while still maintaining God's sovereignty and
holy character as well as human freedom.
Most Methodist hymnals have a section with hymns concerning prevenient
grace, most recently The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). One of the
best known hymns written about the doctrine is Charles Wesley's "Come,
Sinners, to the Gospel Feast", which includes the lines, "Ye need not
one be left behind, for God hath bid all humankind... the invitation
is to all..." (emphasis added).
Charles Wesley's "Sinners, Turn: Why Will You Die" continues the
theme, "Sinners, turn: why will you die? God, the Spirit, asks you
why; he, who all your lives hath strove, wooed you to embrace his
love" (emphasis added). His hymn "Depth of Mercy" offers a prayer to
God, "Now incline me to repent, let me now my sins lament, now my foul
revolt deplore, weep, believe, and sin no more" (emphasis added).
In Roman Catholic theology
"No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit. Every time
we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the
way of prayer by his prevenient grace."
Second Council of Orange of 529 stated that faith, though a free
act, resulted even in its beginnings from the grace of God,
enlightening the human mind and enabling belief. In canon 23 it is
said that God prepares our wills that they may desire the good. Canon
25 states, "In every good work, it is not we who begin... but He (God)
first inspires us with faith and love of Him, through no preceding
merit on our part.”
Jeremiah 1:5 (ESV): "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and
before you were born I consecrated you..."
Jeremiah 31:3 (KJV): "...I have loved thee with an everlasting love:
therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."
Ezekiel 34:11, 16 (ESV): "For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I
myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out...I will seek
the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the
injured, and I will strengthen the weak..."
Luke 19:10: "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which
John 6:44: "No man can come unto me, unless the Father who hath sent
me, draw him..."
John 12:32: "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all
peoples to Myself.”
Romans 2:4: "...the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance..."
In other sources
"Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace" (#2670 Catechism of the Catholic Church). "That grace is preceded by no merits. A reward is due to good works, if they are performed; but grace, which is not due, precedes, that they may be done [St. Prosper]." Can. 18. #191 Council of Orange II A.D. 529 (Second Council of Orange).
Objections to the doctrine
Calvinists often object to prevenient grace, claiming it allows for
What Arminius meant by "prevenient grace" was that grace that precedes actual regeneration and which, except when finally resisted, inevitably leads to regeneration. He was quick to observe that this "assistance of the Holy Spirit" is of such sufficiency "as to keep at the greatest possible distance from Pelagianism."
Calvinists have their own doctrine of prevenient grace, which they
identify with the act of regeneration and which is immediately and
necessarily followed by faith. Because of the necessity of
salvation following this dispensation of prevenient grace, it is
called irresistible grace. Wesleyan prevenient grace also contrasts
with the Calvinist understanding of common grace by which God shows
general mercy to everyone (Matt. 5:43-48), restrains sin, and gives
humankind a knowledge of God and of their sinfulness and need of
rescue from sin.
Common grace is thus said to leave people without
excuse. Arminians object that Calvinist common grace leaves people
absolutely incapable of coming to God (a point on which Calvinists
agree) and thus do not believe it leaves them without excuse.
Calvinists further maintain that when the Bible speaks of humanity's
condition of total depravity, of spiritual death, it speaks of it as
an actuality, not a hypothetical condition that prevenient grace
resolves for everyone, as they believe the Wesleyan doctrine teaches.
Calvinists see all people as either dead in their sins or alive in
Christ (Eph. 2:1-5), and they see the Wesleyan doctrine of prevenient
grace as creating a third state, neither dead nor alive.
Calvinists understand "dead in sin" to mean absolutely unable to
choose God, whereas Arminians understand it to mean the state of being
separated from God by sin, but capable of choosing God.
Some Calvinists (and others) derisively refer to the Wesleyan concept
of prevenient grace as "universal enablement." They characterize the
Wesleyan view as teaching that God has restored to every individual
the ability to seek after God and choose salvation and as not being
justified by the Bible. They argue that because this grace is
supposedly given to all alike, the determining factor in salvation
becomes the will of man. Calvinists believe that Wesleyans teach that
God seeks all people equally, and if it weren't for the fact that some
were willing to respond to his promptings and persuasions, no one
would be saved. They see this dependence on the will and choice of the
individual as a good work required for salvation and thus an implicit
rejection of salvation by grace alone. Conversely, in
Topic Lutheranism Calvinism Arminianism
Through the means of grace, such as the
^ Henry Bettenson, The Later Christian Fathers (London: Oxford
University Press, 1970), pp. 204-205.
^ Council of Trent, session 6, chapter 5
^ a b Picirilli, Robert E. (2002). Grace, Faith, Free Will:
Contrasting Views of Salvation :
Sermon #44: "Original Sin" by John Wesley Sermon #85: "On Working out Our Own Salvation" by John Wesley Sermon #105: "On Conscience" by John Wesley Sermon #128: "Free Grace" by John Wesley Wesley on Salvation: A Study in the Standard Sermons (1989) by Kenneth J. Collins, chapter 1: "Prevenient Grace and Human Sin" (ISBN 0-310-75421-6) "Total Corruption and the Wesleyan Tradition: Prevenient Grace" by Donal Dorr, Irish Theological Quarterly 31 (1964), 303-321. "Prevenient Grace - A Wesleyan View" by Leo G. Cox, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society (Sept. 1969): 143-149. A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology (1994) by J. Kenneth Grider, chapter 14: "The First Work of Grace" (ISBN 0-8341-1512-3) John Wesley's Message for Today (1983) by Steve Harper, chapter 3: "Power to Begin: Prevenient Grace" (ISBN 0-310-45711-4) Practical Divinity: Theology in the Wesleyan Tradition (1982) by Thomas A. Langford, chapter 2: "Wesley's Theology of Grace", (ISBN 0-687-07382-0) Responsible Grace: John Wesley's Practical Theology (1994) by Randy Maddox, chapters 3-7 (ISBN 0-687-00334-2) Relational Holiness: Responding to the Call of Love (2005) by Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl (Beacon Hill Press) (ISBN 0-8341-2182-4) John Wesley's Scriptural Christianity: A Plain Exposition of His Teaching on Christian Doctrine (1994) by Thomas Oden, chapter 8: "On Grace and Predestination", pp. 243–252 (ISBN 0-310-75321-X) The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) "Prevenient Grace" section, hymns 337-360 (ISBN